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Laurie Clarke

Reporter

Amazon Pentagon contract appeal “likely to succeed” on technical point, says US judge

A US judge said Amazon is likely to succeed on a key argument of its challenge to the US Department of Defense’s decision to award a $10 billion JEDI (The Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure) cloud computing contract to Microsoft. 

The opinion by US Court of Federal Claims Judge Patricia Campbell-Smith was published in a court document on Friday. On February 13, she issued an order halting work on the contract pending resolution of Amazon’s court appeal.

Amazon says that Microsoft snagged the contract because of Donald Trump’s influence. CEO of Amazon Jeff Bezos and Trump have sparred in the past, with the latter hurling barbs at both Amazon and Bezos’ newspaper, the Washington Post

However, it wasn’t this point of contention that the judge’s critique focused on and she didn’t mention Trump by name. Instead, the opinion centred on how the Pentagon assessed Microsoft’s data storage in one price scenario.

Amazon “is likely to succeed on the merits of its argument that the DoD improperly evaluated” a Microsoft price scenario, Campbell-Smith wrote. Amazon is likely to show that Microsoft’s scenario was not “technically feasible”, she said.

Campbell-Smith said: “In the context of a procurement for cloud computing services, the court considers it quite likely that this failure is material.”

She also rejected claims raised by Microsoft and the Defense Department that Amazon should have raised its concerns sooner.

In a statement, Microsoft spokesman Frank X. Shaw undermined the heft of the impediment, saying that the judge’s decision hinged on a “lone technical finding by the Department of Defense about data storage” under one price scenario out of six. He said the company believes it will be able to move forward. 

Amazon filed a lawsuit in November 2019, some weeks after the contract was given to Microsoft. The lawsuit said the Defense Department’s decision was full of “egregious errors,” that stemmed from “improper pressure from President Donald Trump.”

The purpose of the JEDI contract is to give the military improved access to data and technology from remote locations. As part of the lawsuit, the execution of the contract has been stalled. Since it was first announced in 2018, it has been subject to repeated delays. 

“We remain focused on getting this critical capability into the hands of our warfighters as quickly and efficiently as possible,” Lt. Col. Robert Carver, a Pentagon spokesman, said in an email to the Washington Post.